I fully appreciate the concerns and seriousness of the situation for the whole UK travel industry, which I recognise has faced significant challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see Ryanair being upbeat about the future of aviation and announcing several new routes.
I have also taken the liberty of providing a link to the speech that I made on travel in the relevant debate in Parliament recently. Please be assured that I have raised this issue in Parliament on a number of occasions:
I understand that the coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly detrimental effect on the aviation industry, and I sympathise greatly with any aviation sector employee who has faced uncertainty or redundancy. I want to be clear that the Government recognises the importance of the aviation sector to the UK economy, and the effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the industry. I am pleased that the hard work and sacrifices of the British people have allowed us to make enormous progress in tackling this pandemic, making a number of changes to further progress the safe restart of international travel possible. Going forward, the Government is keen to work with the aviation sector in finding a stable and sustainable recovery.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme provided an unprecedented package of support, helping businesses to retain staff and reduce the need for redundancies. I welcome that the furlough scheme has now been extended until the end of September.
I do understand, however, that the loss of some jobs within the aviation industry due to the coronavirus pandemic may, unfortunately be inevitable, but companies who do decide to make employees redundant should do so with fairness. The Government stands ready to support anyone affected, with the Department for Work and Pensions available to help employees identify and access the support that is available. Further information on redundancy rights can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/redundancy-your-rights.
As you will be aware, international travel is currently governed by a traffic light system. It categorises countries based on risk alongside the steps people will need to follow when returning from each category of country. This system protects the public and the vaccine rollout from COVID-19 variants of concern.
Furthermore, since 19th July, the Government no longer recommends against travel to amber list countries, providing peace of mind to people wishing to travel to amber list countries for leisure. Most people covered by the amber list rules, who have been fully vaccinated with an NHS vaccine, do not need to quarantine on arrival in England or take a COVID-19 test on day 8. This gives holidaymakers greater opportunity to travel internationally.
More broadly, in June, the Government published the Tourism Recovery Plan to help the sector recover back to pre-pandemic levels and build back better for the future. The plan aims to recover international tourism to pre pandemic levels by 2023; a year faster than independent forecasts predict. I welcome Government plans to work with 'Visit Britain' to welcome back international visitors as soon as it is safe to do so.
Whilst no bespoke financial packages for the aviation and tourism sectors are available, the Government estimates that, in total, as of the end of April 2021, the air transport sector has benefited from around £7 billion of Government support since the start of the pandemic. The extension of Government-backed loans and furlough payments announced in the Spring budget build on this and will help ensure this sector of the economy can bounce back after the pandemic.
However, I will continue to raise industry-specific concerns with Ministerial colleagues to ensure they are aware of the issues surrounding the sector and employees.